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Monday, November 24, 2014

WCC Initiative Ignites IT Industry

We know there are jobs going unfilled in the information technology industry. And with a statewide unemployment rate hovering around 8 percent, we know there are people in Michigan ready to work who can’t find a job. How do we change that? WCC has the answer.

WCC’s new IGNITE Michigan initiative (Intentionally Growing New Information Technology Employees in Michigan) is expected to train 225 unemployed and underemployed individuals in addition to military veterans for entry-level IT jobs over the next three years. Support to develop a curriculum based on their unique needs comes through a $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We want to put people back to work,” said Charles Lafayette, who is managing the program for the College. “We are concerned about basic IT architecture within organizations of all types and, at the same time, keeping up with the special skill needs of those that are web-intensive.”

Instruction for the new WCC retraining program includes a combination of online and classroom components. Course work will focus on two career areas: software development for Java and network and systems administration for Microsoft and Linux/Unix platforms, which lead to blended learning certificates and associate degrees in Java programming and network/systems administration.

Two non-credit components also are featured. One follows the successful IT training format piloted by Ann Arbor SPARK, MEDC, and WCC in January 2012 called Shifting Code. The other provides training to align with entry-level employment.

Enhancements like online gaming simulation set it apart from other retraining programs. Another is the extent in which the College engages employers and employment services such as the Washtenaw and Livingston Michigan Works agencies in the educational process.

“We are very fortunate to have Quicken Loans, Google, The Advisory Board Company, MyBuys, Ann Arbor SPARK, and the Workforce Intelligence Network IT Council as partners in this grant. They have a direct say in key elements of the curriculum,” said Lafayette.

The Advisory Board Company provides technical solutions for the health care industry. The Ann Arbor office works under its Crimson Software division and supports the Crimson Care Registry tool for quality patient care reporting. It runs a combined environment of Linux and Windows servers, and has a wide variety of technical opportunities available for skilled employees within the company.

“We want to grow in this region and build a larger presence in Ann Arbor,” said Mark Holt, director of implementation services for The Advisory Board Company. “A big part of that is having the appropriate technical skill set to support growth. We know we will need more technical talent in the areas of Linux and .NET technologies and the various things those technical applications leverage today.”

To accomplish that, Holt and his colleagues will help WCC develop curriculum for the next training session to ensure that the skill sets he needs are being taught. That way, he says, he can put those new skills to work immediately.

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